Israeli researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) have developed sensors as sort-of virtual breathalyzer designed to work with smartphones, smartwatches, fitness trackers, and Google Glasses to measure changes in gait that indicate intoxication levels with 100% accuracy that could potentially keep intoxicated drivers off the road and save lives.
“Alcohol distinctly affects movement, gait, and balance in ways that can be detected by the built-in motion sensors on devices people carry around with them all the time, ” says Ben Nassi, a graduate student who developed the device under the guidance of Professors Yuval Elovici and Lior Rokach. “Our system simply takes a baseline reading while walking from the car to the bar and another one on the way back to compare and identify movements that indicate drunkenness.”
Applications based on Nassi’s trained machine learning model for measuring intoxication could be used to alert people, or even a connected car, and prevent users from driving under the influence.
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According to the research paper, Nassi and his team collected test data from 30 young people (60 percent men, 40 percent women) in their 20s, which is the group considered by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to have the highest risk of causing fatal accidents due to alcohol consumption.
Smart wearable devices are a burgeoning market, with 275 million sold in 2016, and another 322 million units forecast in 2017. The researchers are optimistic that within a few years, the application will be useful for people who routinely use a smartwatch along with their smartphone.
“A system based on our approach could prevent a person from driving under the influence after an alert unobtrusively detects intoxication while they are walking to their car, ” said Nassi. “As the Internet of Things (IoT) progresses, the system could even trigger a connected car not to start when a driver tests above the legal limit.”